Archive for June, 2023

Mad about Men 1954

Mad About Men is the charming sequel to the 1948 comedy film Miranda in which a lonely mermaid captures a young man and only offers to release him on the basis that he will take her to London

That was directed by Ken Annakin who shortly after this found fame with ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ in 1952 for Walt Disney – the film ‘Mad About Men’ was made in Technicolor and directed by Ralph Thomas who did an excellent job with plenty of fun-filled moments

Mad About Men Movie Poster, IMDB.

In Mad About Men, set in Cornwall, Miranda Trewella (Glynis Johns) returns and convinces her distant relative Caroline Trewella (Glynis Johns) to let her take her place whilst Caroline goes on a biking excursion with a friend. In order to do this, Caroline fakes an accident which leaves her wheelchair bound, explaining Miranda’s inability to walk and need to keep her ‘legs’ covered with warm blankets.

The pair hire Nurse Carey (Margaret Rutherford), who knows Miranda is a mermaid and helped her in the first film too.

However, even though Caroline is engaged back in London to the dull but stable Ronald Baker (Peter Martyn), Miranda playing as Caroline cannot help herself when she meets some of the town’s most handsome men, and she flirts, dates and kisses both Jeff Saunders (Donald Sinden) and Colonel Barclay Sutton (Nicholas Phipps).

When Ronald comes to visit ‘Caroline’ in Cornwall, Miranda takes an immediate dislike to him and ends up pouring cold fish soup over his head. The Colonel’s wife is suspicious of ‘Caroline’ and ends up discovering her secret, so, in a plot to expose her, she agrees to let ‘Caroline’ sing at a charity concert and plans to reveal her mermaid tail on stage.

However, Caroline gets back from her trip and takes Miranda’s place on stage whilst the Nurse feeds the microphone down to the cove where Miranda lives so her singing voice can still be heard. The film ends with the real Caroline and Jeff Saunders sharing a kiss whilst Miranda is safely back in the Cornish Sea.

This film is fun and light-hearted it and is difficult not to enjoy the story.  However, where it really shines is in highlighting the wistful and whimsical beauty of Miranda and the more prim and proper styling of Caroline. 

Glynis Johns’ acting helps us to differentiate easily between the Trewella girls.

Caroline Trewella on the train from London to Cornwall. Still from Mad About Men (1954).

The film was released to cinemas coupled with ‘African Adventure’ in Pathecolor as the supporting picture

I will have to look further into ‘African Adventure’ – it is in Colour and the filming took place in Africa so it has a lot going for it – plus it got an American and a British release

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Catherine Grant Bogle – More News

It seems that Catherine, the first wife of Richard Todd was in herself a classically trained actress who was building up a quite impressive career until she met and married Richard Todd and virtually gave it all up to support him. only for him to treat her cruelly later in life when he met someone else.

She appeared on the West End stage long before he did apparently – if this programme is anything to go by – and I am sure it is

She appeared in a leading role in that famous play ‘The Cherry Orchard’ at St James Theatre in London in 1948

This is quite definitely the very young Catherine Grant Bogle – billed in her career as Catherine Bogle.

Catherine is playing Anya – on stage in the West End – how impressive for a young 20 year old actress. She had been with Dundee Rep and starred alongside her future husband Richard Todd in ‘Claudia’ but after this she left to join Liverpool Rep on a 6 month contract – that would have been in mid 1947. This was one of the plays that she was in – her star was very much in the ascendancy.

She was a Sottish girl – her father was from Glasgow – he had inherited a brass foundry from his Uncle and her mother Margaret was from Rothesay on the Isle of Bute and her family had business and farming interests there.

Much later on after Catherine married Richard Todd who had found fame and fortune by then, they had moved to Haileywood House Nr Henley on Thames – that would be in 1957

In the middle of 1961, Mr Grant Bogle – Catherine’s father, had suffered a stroke and so decided it would be better for them to live near their daughter and so they came to a rented house in Henley on Thames. Mr Grant Bogle was not happy there so they then came to live in a flat at Haileywood House where Catherine and Richard lived. Mr Grant Bogle was never well though and became quite depressed and little bad tempered – they moved back to Scotland in 1964 maybe to the Isle of Bute area

Richard Todd said of Catherine ‘She was a lovely person and I felt as protective towards her as I had in our earlier rehearsals together. With my career prospects looking bright, I reckoned it would not be long before we could marry’ This was at the time that he had returned to London from Dundee and started his film career

BELOW – Here is a programme from 6 April 1948 when Catherine was in ‘The Cherry Orchard’ in Liverpool at The Liverpool Playhouse on Williamson Square and the play opened on 6 April of that year prior to it moving to the West End of London

Catherine is very much part of the Playhouse Company

Catherine Bogle was a good stage actress and may well have been discovered and gone into the film industry – instead she settled for marriage and raising a family. She was apparently a very good Mother to her children.

I have tried to give her, in this article and in previous ones, the credit she deserves because she is not well known, and the period after Richard Todd left her, I have the impression, was a sad and unhappy time for her. I imagine that she couldn’t quite understand what had happened and why it had happened.

She was in my view cruelly treated by her husband – I think that they never spoke to one another again after the day he packed his bags and left – and even then on that same day, they hardly shared a word between them.

She later went back to live in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute – I hope that she was happy there and that, in her life, she found the happiness that she deserved.

I will hope to do another article on Catherine as soon as I am able

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Treasure Island 1957 – BBC

BBC Television commenced a new serialisation of this famous novel with the first episode broadcast in September 1957.

I imagine filming would have been done a little earlier even if the actual broadcast went out ‘live’ because there were often filmed segments – usually exterior scenes – such as this one.

Bernard Miles again played Long John Silver and Dr. Livesey was played by Valentine Dyall – I can just see Valentine Dyall fitting this role perfectly. He had in fact played the same part in the BBC 1951 serialisation, again along with Bernard Miles as Long John

Also cast was Clive Dunn – later of Dad’s Army – as Ben Gunn

The ABOVE scene was being shot in Surrey with some young watchers in the foreground.

There is a similar picture to this which I have used before which was a few years before this when Walt Disney was filming his Technicolor classic in the summer of 1949 and the location for this scene was the Lake at Denham Film Studios.

Again at Denham

About this time also, the BBC serialised ‘The Adventure of Ben Gunn’ a sort of spin off from Treasure Island in which Peter Wyngarde played a much younger Long John Silver

BE,LOW – I am re-printing this article I wrote some time ago :

The Adventure of Ben Gunn – BBC Television.

Although I can’t remember much of this serial, it seems that it was an expensive production for those days and – as was the case at that time – it went out ‘live’ from the Ealing Studios that the BBC had taken on.

It is as though the BBC were trying to take on ITV who had had great success with ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ later ‘Ivanhoe’ and ‘Sir Lancelot’ .     However ITV were much cleverer here – they made these on film and so were able to sell them to America which in the case of ‘Robin Hood’ proved a great move.

With ‘Sir Lancelot’ some of the episodes were filmed in colour – had that happened with ‘Robin Hood’ then even greater success would have come their way.

It does seem that the BBC were a step behind here – surely it would have been obvious to them that on film it had much more potential

The Adventures of Ben Gunn tells the story of how Ben met Nick Allardyce, son of a local parson, who yearned for a life of adventure.

The Adventure of Ben Gunn BBC TV

Nick had finished medical school before gaining his full qualifications, but he managed to get the job as  surgeon on a transport vessel, the Walrus (later to become Captain Flint’s pirate ship)

Nick and Ben meet John Silver and others from Treasure Island. We learn where  the buried treasure in Treasure Island came from.

The story also tells how Ben came to be marooned on the island years after he had fled the ‘Walrus’ pirate ship

The television series, which starred Peter Wyngarde as John Silver and John Moffat as Ben was a six-part serial which began at 5.35 pm on 1 June 1958 with The Parson’s Son

The last episode was broadcast on 6 July.

The BBC spent a large amount of money on this production

 They even had a giant wave machine and a Spanish galleon for the scenes on board the ship.

During a sword fight between Peter Wyngarde and Olaf Pooley,  Peter sustained an injury but luckily only in a rehearsal.

This as we have said was done ‘live’ so had this sort of thing happened, I really don’t know what would have been done.

Peter Wyngarde was taken to hospital with the  sword still protruding from his leg which to say the least must have been pretty alarming at the time.

Peter Wyngarde played John Silver as a young man. He did say that “I played Long John absolutely straight. In this series he was a young man – about 30 years before the Long John of Treasure Island.”

He was also played as a quite well to do type from a good family who later fell into bad ways.

One role I well remember from Peter Wyngarde was in the 1961 film ‘ The Innocents’ with Deborah Kerr

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The Flame and the Arrow 1950 – Burt Lancaster

This was a real Adventure film that all us youngsters loved when we were lucky enough to see it at the local cinema. Plenty of action and adventure in Technicolor

The Trailer gives us a taste of what is to come

When you viewed this, you just had to go and see it

After this film. I always think that Burt Lancaster became more and more unpleasant and, as we say, got too big for his boots

He could appear brutal on screen, and he sometimes seemed that way behind the cameras too.

He was the boss as well as the star and British directors often seemed to fall foul of him. Charles Crichton (the ex-Ealing comedy director whose credits include The Lavender Hill Mob and A Fish Called Wanda) was sacked a few weeks into the shooting of ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’

Lancaster was equally savage with another Ealing comedy director, Sandy Mackendrick, firing him from the George Bernard Shaw adaptation The Devil’s Disciple (1959.)

“Sandy was a very clever director and a very nice guy but he took one helluva lot of time,” Lancaster later said. At least, by then, Mackendrick had directed Lancaster in one of his greatest performances, as the columnist JJ Hunsecker in Sweet Smell of Success (1957.) Ironically, that film seemed remarkable precisely because of Mackendrick’s inventive camerawork.

It helped, too, that Mackendrick made known an aspect of Lancaster’s character that had hitherto only been hinted at – his capacity for bullying.

One film Director that he didn’t bully or even try to bully was Byron Haskin who directed him in ‘His Majesty O’Keefe’ – and had directed him a few years before in ‘I Walk Alone’ – he just wouldn’t even try or even dare because Byron Haskin had the measure of Burt Lancaster

Byron Haskin with Burt Lancaster #His Majesty O’Keefe’

ABOVE – Don’t mess with me, Mr Lancaster

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The Shaggy Dog 1959

Walt Disney had started his ‘Live Action’ films in 1950 with ‘Treasure Island’ 1950 and the ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ 1952 which were very successful – and made in England. Then to ‘The Sword and the Rose’ and ‘Rob Roy The Highland Rogue’ and these two were not anywhere near the previous two at the Box Office. So he then started production in Hollywood with ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’ which did really well – However the decade finished with, up to that time, the most successful film he had had with ‘The Shaggy Dog’ – it was a surprise to all because it didn’t have a big budget and the expectations were, at best, normal run of the mill. What a surprise when this one struck gold with Cinema-goers just loving it.

I have read that Fred McMurray was Walt Disney’s favourite actor

In many ways, The Shaggy Dog launched a new style for Walt Disney’s live-action films.

 The Shaggy Dog was the most profitable film at the box office beating out the likes of Some Like It Hot, North by Northwest and even Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Only Ben-Hur ruled over The Shaggy Dog at the box office in 1959. The crazy plot element combinations kept young audience entertained.

What other film at the time could give you talks of the Cold War, plotting Russian spies, a rivalry over two different girls, and a horror fantasy about a teenage boy morphing into a dog from a magical ring

Only Walt Disney could pull this off and keep the insanity going with many more films that shared a similar theme of ” A story that treated the younger generation and it’s problems in a light-hearted manner,” as said by Walt Disney. 

The Shaggy Dog 1959

It may have been a surprise hit but it certainly made Walt Disney and his colleagues look anew at projects – they were always pretty adept at reading their fans and what those fans wanted – but this one took them aback

They were quick learners though.

Another really great Walt Disney film of 1959 was ‘Darby O Gill and The Little People’ but it did not do anywhere near as well – in my view it deserved to

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War Bonds Tour

I have just come across this very interesting item

James Cagney, Lucille Ball, Fred Astaire, Greer Garson, Paul Henreid, Judy Garland, Betty Hutton, Harpo Marx, Marjorie Stewart, Sergeant Barney Ross, Kay Kyser, Mickey Rooney, Rosemary LaPlanche on The Hollywood Cavalcade War Bonds Tour.

Film Stars of the day embarked on these USA tours to raise money for the War Effort.

This newsreel below give us a good indication of these nationwide tours organisation and who went on them

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The Tingler 1959

I remember going to see this at our local Ritz Cinema – a Vincent Price film

The Tingler

The Tingler is a 1959 horror thriller starring Vincent Price, and is one of his lesser known films. The film revolves around parasites that live inside human beings and feed off their fear, which causes a spine-tingling sensation. While this film is not one of Vincent Price’s best, the kind of marketing gimmicks used to sell it were just plain bizarre for 1959. The film is considered a cult classic. 

This film is best known for one particular gimmick used to sell it, where some rows of the Cinema Seats vibrate at set times during the film, to make people think they’d been infected with the parasite.

Fake screamers and fainters were even hired to throw fits and pass out during film screenings, with fake doctors on hand to look after them. 

William Castle the Director had given us ‘The House on Haunted Hill’ a year before this and that was filmed in the ‘Emergo’ process – another of his gimmicks where we saw a skeleton emerge from the screen at one particular stage of the film – and then ‘The Tingler’ was made in ‘Percepto’ which could be felt if you were in one of the seats wired up for a mild electric shock when The Tingler appeared.

You really have to hand it to William Castle – he knew how to pull the crowds in

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William Witney

I purchased his Autobiography a few weeks ago,

William Witney
(May 15, 1915 – March 17, 2002) 

William Witney and Cheryl Rogers on the set of Trail Of Robin Hood (1950). A Roy Rogers Film

William Witney was born 108 years ago. He was a true innovator in how action makes its way to the screen. He was working at Republic Pictures, and while on location for the 1937 serial The Painted Stallion, the director, Ray Taylor, was too drunk to work so a very young William Witney took over – he was just 21.

Watching Busby Berkeley put together one of his famous dance numbers, he quickly realised that fight sequences could be choreographed and shot the same way.

After serving in a Marine combat camera unit in World War II, Witney returned to Republic for his last serial, The Crimson Ghost (1946), then took over the Roy Rogers films.

He bought us more action, putting less emphasis on the music and bringing in a decidedly darker, more violent tone, William Witney breathed new life into Roy’s final films.

He was a genius, and his contribution to the cinema has been very under-appreciated.

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